Yellow Ladybugs is a non-government organisation with strong bridges to the community. We are dedicated to the happiness, success and celebration of autistic girls, women and gender diverse individuals. We believe all autistic individuals deserve to be recognised, valued, accepted and supported in order to realise their full potential. We are committed to shining a positive light on autism through the creation of positive and inclusive experiences for our members.
We use identity-first language (‘autistic’ rather than ‘has autism’) to respect our community’s preferences and because we are actively seeking to reframe the conversation on autism, to remove the stigma, and to focus instead on acceptance, and a world that celebrates neurodiversity.
We are an autistic led organisation, which means that the majority of our team members our autistic. We recognise that actually autistic individuals are the true experts on autism, and their lived experience is a critical factor in Yellow Ladybugs’ commitment to being an organisation that can advocate for its autistic members, whether they are children, teens or adults, and whether they are formally diagnosed, or self-identify as autistic.
Yellow Ladybugs was borne out of a mother’s desire to throw a birthday party, not just for her own daughter, but for all the autistic girls who regularly miss out on party invitations. That mum was Katie, CEO of Yellow Ladybugs. Underpinning the birthday party idea, Katie had a larger vision to build a network of autistic girls, where they could find their tribe, connect with each other and share all the triumphs and challenges that come with being autistic. She also saw an opportunity to hold events that would be sensory-friendly, genuinely accommodating, and a place for autistic girls feel celebrated and included.
Twenty autistic girls attended that first birthday-party inspired Yellow Ladybugs event, held at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), Melbourne, on 30 August 2015. The girls enjoyed exclusive access to the gallery, where they explored, observed, ran, played and created. They went home with cupcakes and party bags, and most importantly with a sense of belonging. They walked into the event as girls with an autism diagnosis. They walked out as Yellow Ladybugs. This was just the beginning.
From this start, Yellow Ladybugs has continued to run monthly events for autistic girls and gender diverse young people in Melbourne, and in response to the incredible demand, has expanded to offer regular events in Ballarat, Canberra and Sydney.
Yellow Ladybugs also has a strong advocacy mission, which begins with the recognition that due to prevailing stereotypes, and the gender bias in the current diagnostic tools, autistic girls and women are often misdiagnosed, misunderstood or missed completely. This is particularly the case for the many autistic girls and women (along with gender diverse autistic individuals and many autistic cis-males) who have a more ‘internalised’ autistic presentation, and whose needs are often hidden due to their ability to mask. We are committed to breaking down all gender stereotypes, including the common misperception that autism is primarily a cis-male condition, and to removing the barriers that currently see so many autistic individuals struggling to access diagnostic and support services.
As an autistic-led organisation, we are committed to listening to all autistic individuals and amplifying their stories. We recognise that many autistic women and individuals have spent most of their life wearing a mask, and that it can be difficult for them to be believed when they speak of their lived experience. We are working to change this.
Yellow Ladybugs also actively celebrates the diversity within the community of autistic girls, women and individuals. We take a respectful stance towards differing views, experiences and opinions, as these perspectives all serve to enrich our understanding of what it is to be autistic. We maintain that there is no right or wrong way to be autistic, and that all expressions of autism are valid and valuable. This is how we celebrate neurodiversity.